Slithering in the Rain: Uxmal’s Maya ruins

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

Mayan ruins honouring the Feathered Serpent and the God of Rain

There is nothing more disappointing to an independent traveller than arriving at a popular tourist site and finding it filled with busloads of tour groups. I like to have the vastness and emptiness of archeological ruins all to myself and don’t mind sharing it with a select few who, just like me, have worked hard to get there first thing in the morning.

I packed the night before, bought bus tickets and planned the schedule carefully, but fate had other plans. My early morning chicken bus broke down on its way which, although gave me some memorable experiences and storytelling material, resulted in a humiliating defeat at the hands of these despicable tour groups and their luxury buses. When I entered the site and saw a teenager throwing stones on a pyramid and others shouting at each other, I cussed at all the gods I could remember at that moment.

“Why? Why? Why do people act like that?”

Uxmal, my favourite Mayan ruins


↑ Magician’s Pyramid

Located 62km or two hours south of Merida, the capital of Yucatan, Uxmal is one of the most important Mayan ruins in Central America along with Chichen Itza and Tikal. The ruins are built in a peculiar architectural style (called Puuc) and has beautiful buildings including large courtyards, high pyramids housing the most important religious and administrative buildings, and arches and residences with ornate façades.

Masks depicting Chaac Mool, the god of rain, are carved on many buildings, especially temples that are guarded by entwined, often two-headed, snakes with open fangs. Numerous walls have human skull decor, a style I wouldn’t choose today but I imagine it was an oddly terrifying and sacred symbol in the past ages.

↑ Architectural details of he Magician’s pyramid which is a stepped pyramid with elliptical edges of it’s outlines – not a usual pyramid design.

Having a holistic approach towards city building, the Maya were brilliant architects who combined principles of geography, astronomy, social science and civil engineering together to build meaningful structures for religious and socio-political purposes. For example, the west-side staircase of this pyramid is built so that it faces the setting sun on the summer solstice.

I kept walking and exploring the site, pretending not to get annoyed by American tourists who seemed eternally engaged in a battle with the European tourists in this contest called ‘Who wants to shout the loudest.’

In next three hours, I climbed all structures you were allowed to climb, went to new excavations in the bush which the tourist groups were not interested in and watched an iguana catch a grasshopper. I exited the site, looking forward to a hitchhiking adventure to nearby ruins.

↑ Uxmal ball courts and other artwork

Uxmal is a great ruin to visit, I liked it more than the insanely popular Chichen Itza. The two sites are different ofcourse, Uxmal is relatively smaller, less excavated and has fewer restored buildings in comparison.

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery